Supreme Court to review ban on virtual child porn
By The Associated Press
WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court agreed today to decide whether
Congress can attack child pornography by banning computer-altered pictures that
only appear to show minors involved in sexual activity.
The court said it would hear the government's argument in
Reno v. Free Speech Coalition that
by banning sexual images that do not actually portray children, a 1996 law
"helps to stamp out the market for child pornography involving real
A coalition of adult-oriented businesses that challenged the ban says
it violates free-speech rights, and a San Francisco-based federal appeals court
The Child Pornography Prevention Act expanded a long-standing ban on
child pornography to prohibit any image that "appears to be" or "conveys the
impression" of someone under 18 engaged in sexually explicit conduct.
The law targeted computer technology that can be used to alter an
innocent picture of a child into a depiction of a child engaged in sex.
The Free Speech Coalition, a California-based trade association of
adult-oriented businesses, challenged the law in federal court. The group said
it opposes child pornography, but that films and photos produced by its members
could wrongly be deemed to show minors engaged in sexual conduct.
The group did not challenge a section of the law that banned the use
of identifiable children in computer-altered sexual images.
A federal judge upheld the law, but the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of
Appeals decided in December 1999 the provisions challenged by the coalition
violated the Constitution's free-speech protection. The court said the
government did not show a connection between computer-generated child
pornography and the exploitation of actual children.
Several other appeals courts
have upheld the provisions, and in the appeal acted on today, Justice
Department lawyers asked the nation's highest court to resolve the
The government has a compelling interest in preventing the sexual
abuse and exploitation of children, government lawyers said, adding that
pedophiles often use pictures to seduce children into sexual activity.
Because it is hard to distinguish computer-generated pictures from
those actually portraying children involved in sex, "The government may find it
impossible in many cases to prove that a pornographic image is of a real
child," Justice Department lawyers said.
The Free Speech Coalition's lawyers said that even without the
disputed provisions, the 1996 law "remains a comprehensive and effective tool
for fighting the real evils of child pornography."
Law banning virtual child porn facing real test
Supreme Court to consider whether youthful, though fake, characters in pornographic material should be outlawed like traditional child pornography.
Federal appeals panel strikes down key provisions of computer child-porn law
'Congress has no compelling interest in regulating sexually explicit materials that do not contain visual images of actual children,' 9th Circuit rules.